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Five Restaurant Best Practices for Fighting Back Against COVID-19

Mar 18, 2020 food operations management, labor operations management

Today, the National Restaurant Association called for the federal government to come to the aid of the restaurant industry and its workers. As the second largest private sector employer in the U.S., the restaurant industry stands to suffer a $225 billion impact from the COVID-19 shutdown. It’s estimated that five to seven million restaurant workers are will be out of work.


As our industry faces the unprecedented situation of government-mandated closures, however, a proactive tour of your food and labor operations can help both your bottom line and others who have been hit hard by restaurant shutdowns or job loss.

Here are five things you can do:

Inventory assessment and location transfers

Get visibility into what’s on hand at individual restaurant locations. Delivery and Take-out are your primary sales drivers right now. Make sure you load up locations that have drive-thru windows and customer pick-up areas. If it makes sense to transfer inventory from a sit-down only location to another location with drive-thru capability, do it. With most restaurants relying on takeout and delivery to get through the next several weeks, it’s important to get it right.

Taking care of employees that need to work

The work-from-home crowd may still be drawing a paycheck, but many gig workers are out of work without much in the way of a social safety net. Your managers should consider if their team members simply WANT to work or if they NEED to work. For some team members, working is a matter of keeping the lights on and their rent paid. For other's it's just a side job. Make sure those that need to work are getting first crack at available hours.

Employers can step in and help laid-off employees connect with social services that will help get them through this difficult time. Sharing information on how to apply for unemployment benefits or how to network with local social services can go a long way to making sure that people who need help get it. For instance, the United Way has created a COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund to help people who have lost jobs with everything from food to rent to school fees.

Social distancing customer transactions

Even if you are only doing take-out, it’s still important for employees to incorporate health directives into the ways they interact with other employees and guests. Order and payment should be done by phone or online, then even at pickup, there is no reason for a hand-to-hand transaction. Consider leaving your doors open so customers don't need to touch any surface. Curb-side pickup allows staff to place an order in the customer’s trunk or back seat and still maintain the six-feet separation recommended for social distancing. Talk to your staff and make sure that they understand how important this is in keeping both themselves and your guests safe.

Community food donations

Do you have more perishables in stock than you can use? If you do find that you have excess inventory, especially perishables, think about donating it to the local Food Bank. This will ensure that the food is not wasted and that it can get to the people who need it the most. For instance, When Vermont’s largest ski resort, Killington Resort was forced to shut down before its projected end of season, food services were stuck with two truckloads of food that would have been served in its various restaurants. The solution, Killington sponsored a drive-through grocery where its 1,800 employees could pick up hamburgers, produce, bread, and other food that it would not be able to use. Not only is Killington helping its laid-off employees weather the COVID-19 storm, but they also enhanced their reputation for being a strong community supporter.

Using downtime to upkeep

Finally, a forced shutdown can also be an opportunity to take stock of the company’s systems. Are there hardware maintenance or software upgrades that have been put off because you were just too busy? Now might be the best time to do those extra set-up steps that will pay off later.

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Finally, we will get through this together. Please be careful and we wish you, your families, and your co-workers good health and the strength of community.

- The CrunchTime Team

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